MARGOT AT THE WASHING MACHINE: BFF Joy came up on Saturday afternoon for the matinee of Margot at the Wedding, Noah Baumbach's new film starring Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh as estranged sisters. The movie is polarizing critics in that "love it or hate it" sorta way. I loved it. Baumbach, who wrote and directed The Squid and The Whale, has an ear for devastating dialogue. His characters wield words like cutting instruments and watching Kidman and Leigh slice and dice each other is both difficult to watch and liberating. Critics who don't like the film have said the two sisters are so loathsome as to be unwatchable. That's a load of old shit.

Kidman plays Margot, a writer who has mined her families tragedies and foibles to create numerous bestsellers while living a heady, literary life in Manhattan. Her sister, Pauline (Leigh), is just as smart, but has gone down a different path. She still lives in the family home, located on some Bergman-esque seashore that is never identified. Even the poster and stills from the film (above) have Ingmar written all over them. There's also a touch of Woody Allen's Interiors at play here, but that was also a homage to Bergman. I digress.

Pauline is getting married to a jobless loser named Malcolm (Jack Black mostly out of his depth) and invites Margot to the wedding. The two haven't seen each other in years and it's suggested that Margot only accepted the invitation to see an ex-lover living nearby and to find a new topic for her next novel. When she meets Malcolm, Margot sets about trying to talk her sister out of the marriage. "He's not ugly," Margot says sweetly, "he's just completely unattractive. We were ignoring guys like him when we were sixteen."

The plot is mostly seen from Margot's androgynous adolescent son, Claude, who she treats like an adult, complete with cutting remarks about his manners, appearance and lack of ambition. It's Kidman's best role since The Hours and she finds an amazing balance between the character's vulnerability and nearly pathological need to one up everyone and everything. Kidman's not running around like a loony -- she often underplays it and lets her expressive face and Baumbach's searing dialogue do the work for her. This is also Leigh's best role in ages, a smarter variation on the usual "whore on pills" character that has become her trademark.

Some of the moments in the film are hilarious (Margot getting stuck in a tall tree after Pauline dares her to climb it) and others make you wonder if you should be laughing, most notably when Margot and Pauline are screaming with laughter as they recall their middle sister -- the never seen Rebecca -- being raped by a stablehand. Whether it actually happened is never explained, nor is the suggestion that their late father might have abused them. "What was it about Dad that had us fucking so many guys?" Pauline muses at one point.

After the movie, we were nearly in a car accident that would have been my fault. A 900-year- old grandma decided to make a last minute turn and somehow I managed to lock down the breaks and not hit her. We were literally a hair away from rear-ending her. Joy and I comforted ourselves with good southern food at Agnes & Muriel's. I had the salmon croquettes, which were so good I wanted to go in the kitchen and slap the cook.

Then my washing machine broke. I was working at the computer and not paying any attention to what was going on in the laundry room. When I went to put the clothes in the dryer, I noticed my jeans and undies were still dripping wet with water. I put them through another spin cycle. Still wet. That's when I realized the tub wasn't spinning. I tried to wring out some of the clothes, but finally gave up and took them down the hall the apartment complex laundry room. The repairman came today and said the motor was shot and would cost $280 to fix -- almost the price of a new one. Just fucking great. A new washer is just exactly what I wanted to spend my Poetry at Tech honorarium on. Oh, and I still need a laptop.

I really must double up on my efforts to find a sugardaddy.


"I really must double up on my efforts to find a sugardaddy."

Oh God, me too - but do you think he'd let me hang on to my husband?
i cannot wait for it to open in columbus. i have been dying to see it for almost half a year (i follow ms. kidman closely)
Hey Collin, thanks for the review. It always comes as a surprise when reviewers express distaste for the substance of a film's character based on whether the reviewer likes them or not.

Re the sugardaddy: well you know what I said about Brighton. Trouble is there don't seem to be many well-heeled ones. But if I stumble across any I'll point them in your direction :)
Anonymous said…
Went and saw Margot last night at the Arclight on Sunset. Also wanted to see The Savages with Lauara Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and we actually flipped a coin and Margot won. Nicole and Jennifer were perfect.

Lisa Allender said…
i was going to go see this, but read a thing in that slowed me down...they were harsh on Ms. Kidman and what they claimed was an overabundance of frozen, botoxed face(lovely though she is)which meant it took tremendous effort "to furrow", and mutilated not only her face, but also, according to this article, her "talent" as well...
But I'm headed to the film. Your review for sure, makes me more intrigued than reticent!

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